Delayed Tomos: Why autocephaly for the Ukrainian church is postponed

Author : Yaroslav Konoshchuk

Source : 112 Ukraine

Provision of Tomos to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is supported by 10 local Orthodox churches; Russian and Serbian Orthodox churches are against it
09:20, 27 July 2018

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Provision of Tomos of Autocephaly for Ukrainian Orthodox Church is postponed. According to sources among the clergy, months of talks allowed the official Kyiv, to enlist the support of the majority of Orthodox churches, but autocephaly will not be granted at the end of July: the Russian and Serbian churches are against it. However, Parliament Speaker Andriy Parubiy stated that autocephaly will be provided before the end of the year.

Ideas about the creation of the Ukrainian local Orthodox Church have been voiced since the nineties but without much success. The topic was raised during a meeting of the leaders of parliamentary factions with President Petro Poroshenko (March 17). During it, the head of state announced that he would appeal to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I with a request to grant the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Tomos - permission for autocephaly (independence). And, according to the meeting participants, it was a real surprise for them.


Related: Autocephalous church is one of backbones of Ukraine's national security, - Poroshenko

"As president, I decided to ask the Ecumenical Patriarch to provide Tomos of the local autocephalous church and I would ask you, dear colleagues (because there are things that unite us all), that the parliament supports this appeal as soon as possible," the head of state claimed then.

According to one of the participants in the meeting, Poroshenko hinted that he had already conducted preliminary work and highly estimated the chances of obtaining an autocephalous status.

"The president said that everything has been already decided with Bartholomew," the source said. The interlocutors believe that the key reason for the intensification of this issue is an attempt to increase the ratings of the head of state in light of the forthcoming presidential elections in May.

Poroshenko then said that he expects to receive an autocephalous status already in July this year. However, 268 votes of MPs under the statement of support for the autocephaly did not bring autocephaly. In the first half of July, the synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate did not consider the relevant issue, and its next meeting will be held only in August. The reason for the postponement of the issue is the continuation of informing Orthodox churches about the intention of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Informing the local churches by the delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople began in April (after the relevant appeal of the authorities and part of the clergy). The delegation should visit all 13 local churches and receive their reaction and suggestions. Based on these trips, a report must be prepared. The final decision on granting autocephaly is taken by the Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Related: Church economy: Who will finance Ukraine's autocephalous church?

According to the sources among the clergy that support autocephaly, currently, the provision of Tomos to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is supported by 10 local Orthodox churches. As noted by our interlocutors, the Russian and Serbian Orthodox churches are against it. The former, according to the representative of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Metropolitan of Prussia Elpidophor, conducts an information campaign against the granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian church. However, according to the procedure, the decision to grant Tomos is made by a majority of the members of the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Our sources hope that the upcoming celebration of the anniversary of the Christianization of Rus in the capital, which is planned to be visited by delegations of 12 local Orthodox churches and, possibly, the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarch, will bring Tomos closer to Ukraine.

Related: Polish Orthodox Church calls for observing canonical norms in matter of Ukrainian Church autocephaly

"Mass participation of Ukrainians in the procession will be a signal for Constantinople to support this idea in our country," the interlocutors note, considering that the chances of obtaining Tomos are high. It should be noted that the priests asked some parishioners of the churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) about their presence at the celebrations on the occasion of the anniversary of the Christianization of Rus. However, according to the supporters of autocephaly, we are not talking about any compulsory attendance at events.

However, the mass participation of the Ukrainians in the events may not help its initiators. The barrier to granting autocephaly is the lack of official recognition of the UOC-KP and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), whose clergy asked for autocephaly. Yes, and the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has imposed anathema on Patriarch Filaret in the 90's. However, this decision was appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarch.

Related: Ukrainian Church expresses protest over Moscow's intervention in obtaining autocephaly

Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), in turn, is skeptical about the prospect of providing Tomos and note that the local Orthodox churches share the position of the UOC-MP.

"In August they will say that the consideration of the issue (about granting Tomos) will be postponed until September," Mykola Danylevych, deputy chairman of the External Relations Department of the UOC-MP, wrote on his Facebook page, noting also that the UOC-KP and the UAOC are not officially recognized.

However, the provision of Tomos is not only a religious question but also a political one. The media have been publishing information about the contacts of Presidents Poroshenko and Erdogan on this issue - allegedly the Ukrainian head of state asked the Turkish counterpart to contribute to a positive solution to the problem.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or 112.International and its owners.

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